When Tristan Bishop’s musical “Bold” makes its world premiere Aug. 8 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, it won’t just be entertaining the audience. A tale of female spies during World War II, “Bold” will also be raising money to help Central Floridians in need – local foster children.
Bishop describes “Bold” as a cross between “Les Miserables” and “Hamilton,” and the creative team has been working on it for months. But the story actually begins long before that — when Oviedo friends wanted to help far-off people affected by a typhoon — and culminates in a mixture of creativity and altruism that united a community.
“It’s amazing how a good cause brings people together,” said Siobhan Gale, director of “Bold.”
In California, Bishop found success in the music business, writing songs and producing albums. But with a growing family to support, he turned to the high-tech industry and drifted away from creative endeavors, especially after being transferred to Central Florida in 2006.
Two years ago, he had a thought: “Why did I stop doing theater?” His daughter Natalie, an actor at Holy Land Experience, was plugged into the arts community. He joined her in a production of “Shrek” at Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park.
Bishop’s wife, Kierstyn, had become involved with the iPrevail International Foundation. The local charity was founded in 2013 by Todd and Tina Marinshaw and their friend Dara Urbina in response to Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines. Over time, iPrevail expanded to other charitable causes including its grass-roots Friends of Foster Homes program.
“I know it sounds corny, but people just want to help,” said Marinshaw of Oviedo. “We’ve got Christians, atheists, politically left and right, but we all work together on this mission. When you’re doing something bigger than yourself, you really forget your opinions.”
Among the volunteers was Tristan Bishop, who felt a connection with kids handed a rough start in life.
“I grew up hard,” he said, “on welfare, food stamps. We were homeless for a while. My mother sold flowers on street corners.”
His success prompted him to give back.
“I’ve been gifted,” he said. “I’ll be darned if I’m not going to help.”
Daughter Natalie suggested staging a play to raise money.
That led to the formation of the Unity Players and its presentation of “Annie” at the Dr. Phillips Center last year. The show raised $7,000 for foster-child mentoring programs, but Bishop saw a way to get even more for the youngsters. Instead of paying thousands in licensing costs, as he did for Annie, he would write his own show — “Bold.”
Based on real people, “Bold” tells of female World War II spies behind enemy lines who encounter a Jewish family caught up in the horror of the Holocaust. The story felt personal to Bishop: He is of Jewish and German descent, though his family had immigrated to America before war broke out.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how my ancestors might have killed each other if they hadn’t gotten out of Europe,” he said.
The story spoke to Gale, the director, because it featured strong women. But she also felt a connection to its mission of helping foster children; she already works with a theater program serving underserved communities.
Everyone has a part to play in the production. Some will be at center stage, such as actors Alyssa Hostetler, Iris M. Johnson and Esteban Vilchez, who have performed in theaters around Central Florida. Then there are those behind the scenes, such as Kierstyn Bishop, who serves as the iPrevail volunteer coordinator and is producing “Bold.”
“She’s a silent warrior,” Marinshaw said. “She does everything, but doesn’t want to be in the limelight.”
“There’s a heart for this in the arts,” Bishop said. “People will volunteer their time if it helps children.”
To make sure the children benefit as much as possible, Bishop sought to save on rehearsal-space fees this year. He approached First Alliance Church on Lake Underhill Road, east of downtown, and asked to rent its gym.“We told them no — we’d let them use it for free,” said the Rev. Jesse Reddoch, the church’s lead pastor. The church, home to English-speaking, Korean, Vietnamese and Spanish-speaking congregations, already supported foster-care services. Reddoch said the outreach is intrinsic to the mission: “The church is part of the community, it is comprised of the community.”
The free rent saved thousands in production costs, Bishop said — meaning more for iPrevail to put to good use.
“It really goes a long way for us,” Marinshaw said. The money raised will pay for activities for the children — art nights, paintball, parties — any event that can help normalize their lives. Said Reddoch: “If you’re able to speak hope into a young heart and mind, there’s no telling what they can achieve.”
What: A benefit for iPrevail’s Friends of Foster Homes program
When: Aug. 8-11, show times vary
Where: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave. in Orlando